Do you unintentionally leak urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh, jump or do physical activity?
This is known as Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) and is a common condition that affects 1 in 3 Australian women. Urinary incontinence is the unintentional loss of urine, more specifically, stress induced incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine during physical activities such as coughing, sneezing, running, heavy lifting or engaging in sexual intercourse.
Causes of Stress Urinary Incontinence
One of the most common causes for stress urinary incontinence is a weak pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles, tissues and ligaments that act as a hammock to support your bladder, uterus and bowel. The pelvic floor works synergistically with Transverse Abdominis (Deep Abdominal) and Multifidus (Deep Back Ex-tensors) to form a muscular cylinder which maintains your internal abdominal pressure and continence of your urethral, anal and vaginal orifices. If the pelvic floor becomes stretched, weakened or damaged during activities that increase your internal abdominal pressure – such as coughing or heavy lifting – and put pressure on your bladder wall, SUI can happen as your pelvic floor is too weak to counteract the pressure.
The most common causes of stress incontinence among women are pregnancy and childbirth – particularly vaginal delivery – as a result of the extra weight and change in hormone levels. Poor bowel and bladder habits are also another common cause for SUI, these include:
– Straining to empty
– Hesitancy to void
– Hovering over the toilet
– Frequent urination during the night
– Poor Fluid Intake (<2-3L)
– Emptying bladder just in case
These bowel and bladder habits weaken the pelvic floor by increasing the internal abdominal pressure which in turn, increases the strain on the pelvic floor. Overtime, if these factors aren’t addressed and treated, the pelvic floor and sphincters stretch out and weaken, thus causing SUI.
What can a Physiotherapist do?
Pelvic floor muscle strengthening exercises are the most effective method in treating Stress Urinary Incontinence, with over 50% of all women with SUI cured solely through pelvic floor exercises. By using the Real Time Ultrasound, Physiotherapists can assist with achieving pelvic floor muscle contractions as the imaging provides instant visual feedback to ensure a proper pelvic floor contraction. Additionally, the physiotherapist is also able to ensure you’re not contracting other muscles around your abdomen, pelvic floor and hips as localised pelvic muscle contracting is needed to achieve control of continence.
At Perth Physiotherapist and Pilates we would encourage you to seek help if you or someone you know experiences stress incontinence. Don’t be one of the statistics – you CAN do something about it.
Both physiotherapists have experience in Women’s and Men’s Health as well as assisting women to continue or return to sport during pregnancy and the postnatal period. Our experienced Physiotherapists are also able to guide you in a pelvic floor assessment with real time ultrasound. If you need assistance with your pelvic floor, please do not hesitate to contact us or book an appointment with our experienced physiotherapists.